203 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr N. Chamberlain, U.K. Prime Minister

Cablegram 197 [1] 2 May 1940,


With further reference your cablegram 22nd April, Circular D. 145 [2], proposed conference Dominion Ministers: I have given great deal of thought this matter during last few days. Naturally I would be most willing to attend conference if circumstances here permitted. However, you are aware of position of my Government from political standpoint and that election must be held this year. Whether this takes place at an early date or later in year is dependent upon conditions which may emerge as matters of policy are dealt with by Government. It may be that we will find it necessary to hold elections in, say, July. If this is so and present Government returned it would be possible for me to be in London in August. On contrary, however, we may find that it would be most inadvisable to hold elections until much later in the year. Till then it would be most difficult for me to be absent from Australia for any considerable period. Necessity for continual watchfulness over Australian war effort is another reason why it is difficult for me to arrive at decision whether I should be absent from Australia during next few months. You will realise this also has political implications. However, I am going carefully into all possibilities and will give you more definite answer within, say, a fortnight. No need to assure you that I will do whatever appears to be best in the interests of all of us. [3]

1 This cablegram was sent through the U.K. Dominions Secretary.

2 Document 169.

3 On 10 May 1940 the U.K. High Commissioner in Australia, Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, informed his Government that Menzies had told him in confidence that he intended to accept the U.K. suggestion to visit London, and that it would be best to hold the general election after his return, i.e. about October. The alternative would be to hold the election in July and go to London in August.

Neither the Canadian nor the South African Prime Minister, however, was enthusiastic about visiting London during the period suggested, and no meeting was held. (See Dominions Office note dated May 1940 in PRO: DO 35/998.)

[FA: A3196, 0.2666]